Current British national time trial champion Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) wasted little time in this year's Giro d'Italia, winning the opening prologue through the streets of Amsterdam on a brand-new Pinarello Graal time trial machine. It's so new, in fact, that Pinarello has still offered up virtually no official information, but it looks to be a further evolution of the company's current FM1 time trial flagship with a touch of Dogma tossed in as well.
Like the FM1, the Graal top tube starts out distinctly large and blocky up front to promote front-end rigidity before tapering to a more flattened shape out back. The new seat tube is even more radically shaped than before, with the upper half – and the seatpost – now adopting a perfectly vertical orientation to help reduce drag. As some other companies have already suggested those more upright edges lead to better efficiency through the air and the seat stays have also been propped up a bit before taking a slight jog forward prior to the seat tube junction.
Pinarello has clearly made efforts to smooth airflow around the usually 'dirty' brakes with a side-pull caliper mounted behind the blocky fork crown. A standard Shimano Dura-Ace caliper is used for the rear wheel but even that is well hidden behind an enlarged upper seat stay assembly.
The radically shaped chain stays – which start out tall and narrow at the bottom bracket then effectively twist 90 degrees at the dropouts – are slightly dropped and more horizontal than on the FM1, presumably to reduce their frontal area. Of course, cable routing is mostly internal throughout, including through the carbon aerobars.
The Graal down tube is particularly interesting with its five angular 'cuts' along each side. Without official information, we can only assume at this point that it's an effort to improve airflow and improve surface adhesion, similar to what Ridley has done with its Noah and Dean aero bikes, but we'll report back when more details are available.
Naturally, aero wheels were installed front and rear for Wiggins' successful run in Amsterdam. Both were conspicuously labeled as 'PROtotypes', but a closer look revealed them to actually be a standard HED H3 up front and a modified HED Stinger Disc out back, built around a Shimano Dura-Ace hub instead of the usual HED Sonic model.
Wiggins' bike wasn't the only aerodynamic thing rocketing through Amsterdam, either, as a quick glance at his position – and the bike measurements – reveal an ultra-aggressive, low and narrow posture that even some of the best time trial specialists can only dream of holding.
Wiggins isn't only concerned about aerodynamics as his build kit shows an obvious emphasis on reducing friction, too. Ceramic bearings from UK-based Ultimate Ceramic Bearings are fitted to the bottom bracket and rear derailleur pulleys, and the front hub does without hub seals altogether.
Other non-standard bits used during Wiggins' maglia rosa-winning ride include a set of O.symetric chainrings (which the mechanics replaced with standard Dura-Ace ones prior to our photo shoot), a Team Sky-colored Prologo Nago Evo TTR time trial-specific saddle, and Pinarello's own integrated carbon fiber aerobar setup.
Total weight as pictured is 8.35kg (18.4lb) – quite respectable when you remember that time trial bikes generally aren't all that light and the Pinarello aero bar setup looks to use an awful lot of carbon. Moreover, Team Sky mechanics stressed that Wiggins' machines (he has two!) are still pre-production prototypes and the custom paint job also adds a chunk of weight.
Not that any of this mattered on Saturday, though, given the pan-flat parcours. Needless to say, Pinarello couldn't have wished for a more successful competitive debut.